Once upon a time there was an orc named Gogglesnort. He was a strange and kind of awkward fellow, and a bit grumpy, but never wanted to hurt anyone. He lived in a humble dugout with a cute green door at the edge of the Forest near Maiden’s Bridge. His onion and duck soup was a hit at the local Temple of Mercy on Wednesday nights, and he loved staying up late reading about the glorious campaigns of kings and emperors past and the exciting battles they fought for great justice.
Gogglesnort was a fairly level-headed and reasonable guy who lived in a fairly level-headed and reasonable realm. I mean it wasn’t perfect…there were all sorts of problems. The king was known to skim off the royal purse for parties that were listed in the books as being diplomatic favours. There were concerns over whether the easterly winds would remain consistent enough to keep the grist mills going through the next decade’s harvests. And there were a few low-key tensions between various parts of the kingdom who yearned for the days when their fiefdoms were their own.
But on the whole…the king was well-liked even if he wasn’t exactly *quite* filling the shoes of his grandfather. He frequently ventured into the peasant lands to give gifts, feasts, and try to improve the situation for the serfs as and when he could. The grist meals for the time being were churning out the finest flour throughout the known land, and the kingdom was famous for its tasty bread and cakes. And all in all, people got along, even if they did look with rose-coloured glasses at the reign of King Mattersnot all those many years ago.
Most importantly, the king proclaimed tolerance of all thinking creatures under his rule, man and beast alike. Thus Gogglesnort was happy.
But then one day, there was trouble…suddenly a lesser noble upstart from one of the coastal merchant towns started to stoke the fires of division between the fief collectives. She convinced them that minor disagreements and transgressions against them from their neighbours were actually examples of utmost evil and contempt from the local governors or even the king himself. These purported transgressions were at best the results of gross misunderstandings and lingering stereotypes about what types of hat to wear while making wine and what ones style of hat meant and at worst outright fabrications. Worst of all, she indirectly suggested that the elves, dwarves, and yes even orcs might be to blame for the prior years iron mine closure, which forced many to rely upon King’s mercy for their daily pittance until another industry could afford them work. Her name…was Karenia.
When the broadsheets started printing all that wasn’t fit to print, albeit in the back pages, the king’s advisors pleaded unto him. “Sire!” they exclaimed “you must put a stop to this usurper! She’s changing the entire dynasty’s work and splashing poison upon all the best things of the last few centuries!”.
The king was not immediately moved. “Phooey!” he said sipping his wine, “if the crazed daughter of a second-rate wool merchant wishes to ramble on about his dissatisfactions, then by all means let him. What kind of message would it send if I, the King of the land, started silencing every grumbling tongue! I shudder at the very fault! Nothing’s ever going to be fully great *all* the time…let the people have their grumbles, in time I’m sure they’ll band together to solve our most immediate problems!”.
Gogglesnort happened to be outside the main castle’s entertaining hall and heard the king’s dismissal of his advisor’s concerns. He smiled and went about his weekend job reshelving books at the palace library…but over time as the whinier sections of the broadsheets crept closer to the front page, it gave him pause. One night, an elven sky-mage was attacked on her way home from entertaining the scholar’s guilds annual picnic. She escaped unharmed, but the fallout was immense…on her way home the guards mistook her for the assailants and briefly detained her! It was only when her friend from the guild vouched for her they realised their mistake. Again, though the kind knew of latent anti-elvish prejudice in the land, he again assumed that it was not to worry about; that it would blow over just as soon as could be.
But it didn’t. And before anyone knew it that usurper had amassed a massive army outside the Capital proclaiming a new dynasty…and then quickly smashed their way through the gates as the king escaped in the other direction with his assembly of nobles. Gogglesnort barely escaped from the city with his life and decided it would be best to shut his cute green door and keep to his reading by low light. As the years went on under the new tyrannical queen, the news just got worse and worse. It seemed that the talk in the local village square was nothing but scary rumours and rumours of rumours.
The thing that Gogglesnort most noticed was that most of the people’s *worst* fears had not come to pass, and thus there was a sort of regression to the status quo that those around him thought had existed before. However, Gogglesnort recognised some of this talk…heard some of the “jokes” about how his type was dumb as a crate of wagon wheels with no spokes…about how his green colour was actually the result of a angry god’s punishment in millenia past.
In the last year of a short period, it started to seem as if the Tyrant Queen Karenia finally was to have her way…and just as all seemed ready to seal the kingdom under the dark dynasty which she promised would restore the Golden Era of the kingdom, then came what seemed a hammer of the gods themselves. A terrible plague descended upon the land taking many. Gogglesnort, having an especially narrow snout, decided to almost exclusively stay in his dugout, only coming out when he could go without vegetables no longer. As he was cooped up inside for the whole of a year…with only the neighbours whispering news and his books, his felt an exile in the land in which he was born, where his mother taught him the art of book-printing and his father the art of berry-picking and cobbler-making. As the plague took one family after another, his sense of isolation grew…and so too did his anger. Eventually, he felt so cooped up he never wanted to leave. Only remembering better times of book debate and hunting parties through the intoxicating beers from his cellar kegs and the copious smoking of pipe-weed.
Finally and predictably the king returned to his castle. It was a hard battle, many retreats were made, but at the last, the trumpet sounded and despite the protestations of Karenia that the attack was without honour or shame…she was deposed. The king, now a bit older, returned to his throne. As time grew, the plague passed and birdsong returned to the forests, but Gogglesnort found himself hesitant to go out. After so many years of tyranny…he noticed the neighbour who once baked his rolls had started giving him some of the more wonky and slightly drier ones. When he went to the fishmonger, he couldn’t help but see how he whispered to his daughters as he left…eyes darting back and forth between him and the girl with her long cane fishing pole.
But most of all, he noticed that the broadsheets still spelled doom and gloom at every turn. Nothing seemed better, despite the king’s assurances that he’d build back the kingdom as it was and better, despite the decrees and proclamations of reinstituted unity.
So…in the end…Gogglesnort stayed in his little home and spent more and more time in his basement with his tomes and pipe. For though the kingdom was restored…he could not for now see his place in it would ever be.